WAITING FOR A WEATHER WINDOW IN NUKU’ALOFA

Today has been a flat day.  I have not done anything meaningful.  I am feeling a bit down now that Jessica has gone and I am alone again. I stayed on board most of the day reading a book and doing small odd jobs, just pottering about really.

I want to get going to New Zealand but the weather is not right yet.  It looks like next Monday will be the earliest opportunity to depart.  Very frustrating as I want to be on my way, but you can’t hurry the weather.  So, I will be waiting on weather and going slightly crazy if I can’t find some distraction.

This morning I was reflecting on our trip from Honolulu to Tonga.  The route planned was Honolulu, Christmas Island, Penrhyn, Suwarrow, Niue and Tonga.  In the end, we went direct from Honolulu to Tonga with only a stop at Christmas Island.  The weather on route and at the destinations of Both Penrhyn and Suwarrow being nasty.

In the Vava’u group we met up with a lady who had planned the identical trip, leaving Honolulu a month before us.  She made Christmas Island, after having similar weather on the bow as we did.  She then could not make Penrhyn or Suwarrow and missed them, she left out Niue as we did and headed direct to Tonga, all due to the weather.  What a coincidence that we both had identical itineraries and both made the same route decisions – and then both met up in the same small bay.

Tonight, I will stay on board again and cook some supper.  I have plantain and some fresh veg – it will be a healthy meal.  Then maybe watch a movie.  After a good rest tonight I will be ready for some exploration tomorrow.

ADOPTING PLAN ‘C’ – HEADING TO TONGA

Another lovely night.  This time though the wind deserted us in the early hours and has been missing since.  For the last twelve hours we have rolled around the ocean and just managed to keep moving at between two and three knots.  Such a contrast to the previous days when we have been striding along effortlessly at between six and seven knots.

Jessica Sailing in The South Pacific
Jessica Sailing in The South Pacific

The wind is expected to fill in again this evening and we will welcome some breeze through the boat – its very hot today.  I poled out the jib this morning to reduce the sail flogging, we are moving slowly south east, downwind.

We keep scanning astern looking and hoping for signs of a breeze.  Its been a slow day today, only one hundred and eighteen miles noon to noon.

Last night we downloaded another weather file and found the winds forecast for Suwarrow had not diminished – in fact they had become slightly stronger, thirty knots.  There is no point in us arriving in such weather, the anchorage will be neither relaxing or conducive to exploring ashore or by Kayak.  We will just be stuck onboard, much like during our call at Christmas Island.

We have reluctantly made the decision to skip Suwarrow and head direct for Tonga.  If we had been on an easier schedule we could have easily held back arriving in Suwarrow for a couple of days and then enjoyed some calm condition inside the lagoon.  We don’t have that luxury so will head direct to Neiafu in the Vava’u group to check in with customs and immigration.  It will probably take us another ten days to get to Neiafu, arriving around Monday 21st August.

The time that we have missed at Penrhyn and Suwarrow we will spend sailing down the Tonga chain of islands.  We have been reading some good stuff about Humpback whales breeding at this time of year – hopefully we will catch up with some.  Total voyage distance 540 miles.

GREEN FLASH

The days and nights continue to be pleasant with good sailing conditions.  So far the South Pacific has provided the conditions we wanted and could not find in the North Pacific.

Last night we had sundowners in the cockpit as the sun set.  Both Jessica and I watched for the green flash as the sun dips down below the horizon.  It happened.  I saw the green flash – it was more like a green bloom.  Somehow Jessica managed to miss it completely.  Its quite unusual for the green flash conditions to be just right – I am happy to have seen another one.

Ngozi has completed our application for clearance into Suwarrow.  Hopefully we will have it early next week.  Our ETA is on the 15th August and the weather is still looking a bit dodgy for arrival with strong easterly winds.  However, the forecast today is a little bit better than yesterday, maybe the declining wind trend will continue.

Otherwise its all routine on board, reading, relaxing, fishing (without success today), baking and odd jobs.  The sun I hot now and finding shade in the cockpit is a priority on watch during the day.  A rain shower would be welcome to wash the salt off the boat.  After that a bit more rain is needed to fill up our water tanks that are running down rapidly in this hot weather.  Both Jessica and I could also do with a shower when we get some rain.  Total voyage distance 422 miles.

HEADING TO SUWARROW

Another wonderful sailing day and night.  We have the wind on our beam and are being pushed along nicely at six knots towards Suwarrow.  Its almost too good to be true, this is the first constant weather we have experienced since departing from Honolulu.  The wind went light for a couple of hours in the early morning but we managed to keep sailing until it picked up again.

Last night we caught a couple of fish.  I don’t know what type of fish they were.  They didn’t look appetising, long slender things with very large eyes.  I suspect because of the big eyes they are night time feeders – anyway, they went back over the side.  We are looking for dolphin fish, we know they taste good.

Last night we had a new take on Thai Chick Pea Curry – concocted by Jessica.  A slightly unconventional dish that tasted excellent.  Despite our pledging not to – we made rice.  Cleaning up was easy really and I suppose we can’t live without rice.

I got a bit bored this afternoon and started rooting around the lockers under the salon settee.  Happily, I came up with six tins of fruit salad that I had completely forgotten about.  Now I know how the squirrel feels when he finds a new stash of nuts.

We have spent the day just relaxing and enjoying the perfect sailing conditions.  Snacking, playing guitar, playing cards, watching movies, reading books.  Nice to catch up on simple activities.  I have not heard any news since leaving Hawaii, I don’t even know who won the Tour de France.  It doesn’t matter at the moment.

As we have missed out our stop at Penrhyn we don’t have clearance into Suwarrow.  I have asked Ngozi to ask the Cook Customs to grant us a clearance on arrival.  Hopefully that will come through before we arrive.

The advance weather forecast for our arrival at Suwarrow does not look too flash.  There is a bit of difference between forecasts, one has twenty knot winds the other 35 knot winds.  We will monitor it daily as we get closer and hope it dissipates before we arrive.  Total voyage distance 270 miles.

INTO THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE AND CHANGE OF PLAN

We had a wonderful night last night, clear skies, big moon and just the right amount of wind to keep us moving along nicely with a low swell.  The nights are cool and an extra layer of clothes is required for the early morning watches.  I watched Venus rise just after the Southern Cross in the east.  Around one in the morning the wind went light and a couple of hours later filled in from the east.  We are now able to lay our course to Penrhyn and make some ground to the east.  We still have the wind on our port bow and going to weather.  However, I have eased off the angle and we are now sailing about 60 degrees off the wind, more comfortable and a bit more progress through the water.

Just after nine this morning we crossed the equator back into the Southern hemisphere.  This is the first time crossing the equator for Jessica on a boat.  She has now progressed from a pollywog to a shellback and has the certificate to prove it.

Shortly after the equator we had a pod of dolphins come to join us, around ten large bottlenose type dolphins.  Pure coincidence I am sure but a nice welcome to the southern hemisphere.

At three this afternoon we took an executive decision – miss out Penrhyn.  We made this decision for numerous reasons including, fed up going to weather, time is running out for Jessica and me, stores and beer stocks will be getting critical before Tonga.  We think it will be far better to spend some quality time in Suwarrow rather than rushing both Penrhyn and Suwarrow.  I am disappointed to miss out on Penrhyn as everything I have read about the place seems excellent.  But, we can’t beat time.  I have put the wind just aft of the beam and are heading 203 degrees to Suwarrow, some eight hundred and twenty miles distant.

It feels so good not to be going to weather, the boat movement has relaxed to a gentle roll.  No more moving around like a spastic monkey, staggering from one handhold to the next.  Now, if only the wind will stay exactly the same for the next week…….  Total voyage distance 134 miles.

CHRISTMAS ISLAND / KIRITIMATI TO PENRHYN

I awoke early this morning, it was too quiet.  On deck all was peaceful, the anchor cable was lying soundlessly in the water.  After days of wind this was a pleasant surprise.  I was now too awake to go back to sleep and it was too early to wake Jessica.

For the next hour I pottered about, putting in some waypoints to the GPS, reading some old news clippings and getting the ships papers’ ready for clearing out from Kiritimati.  Then I made toast and marmalade for breakfast and woke Jessica – who couldn’t complain too much about the time as she was presented with breakfast.

After breakfast we launched the pig and headed into London to clear out with customs and immigration.  This was an easy and pleasant affair and cost us AU$20.  With clearance in hand we set off to do some final provisioning.  We discovered poor quality oranges cost $3.5 each and water was $3 a bottle.  Other items were similarly expensive and we ended up getting not much at all.  I will need to start fishing again.

I found that there are chickens on Christmas Island, I saw a whole bunch running around a yard.  No doubt some enterprising local doesn’t like paying $1.50 for each egg.

When we returned to Truce the wind and sea had picked up again and we had a wet ride.  Once back on board we made ready for sea, lashing and stowing everything in its place.  At eleven o’clock I started the engine and began hauling up the anchor.  By midday we had cleared Cooks Passage and started out voyage south to Penrhyn.

The first hour we sped south on a beam reach at over seven knots.  However, as soon as we cleared the Island the wind went around to the south east and we are back with the wind on the port bow.  Beating into the wind, crashing and banging, salt spray everywhere (thank goodness for the hard dodger) and a strong feeling of Déjà vu.  At the moment we can’t lay the course south and are getting pushed to the west.

Predict Wind weather routing has the wind coming from the east and further down the track from north of east.  That will be perfect.  I hope the wind comes around in the next few hours because I don’t fancy five more days going to windward.  We both had enough of that coming from Honolulu to Kiritimati.  Sailing should be fun, a little bit of going to windward occasionally is OK, but not for days on end.  In the back of my mind I have the option of missing Penrhyn and going direct to Suwarrow if the wind stays south of east.

Apart from my moaning about the wind everything is fine, clear skies with fluffy clouds, fifteen knots of wind and we are making reasonable speed in the general direction of south.  The biggest problems we have now is deciding what to eat for dinner.